Dutch may need more flair to progress

DURBAN - Netherlands eased into the last eight of the World Cup with four wins under their belts on Monday but the suspicion remains that, Arjen Robben aside, this is a pretty ordinary Dutch side.

Robben made his first start in South Africa after returning from a hamstring injury and it was his goal that set them on their way to a 2-1 win over Slovakia, their 12th successive victory in World Cup qualifiers and finals matches.

An impressive record, no doubt, but their qualifying group was hardly the toughest and laboured victories in South Africa have come against Denmark, Japan, an already eliminated Cameroon and the surprise package in the last 16, Slovakia.

But for Robben's contribution, not only on Monday but also as a substitute in the match against Cameroon where his shot set up the winning goal, they might be facing more than just the moans of footballing aesthetes crying out for a dash of Dutch brio.

If it is indeed five-times world champions Brazil who are their next opponents, the Dutch will certainly need to show a lot more attacking bite and consistency to reach the semi-finals.

Coach Bert van Marwijk believes he has taught his team how to "win ugly" but will have been maddened that the Dutch took the foot off the pedal after Robben's 18th minute opener.

He warned before the match that they would not get away with such complacency in the knockout stages of the tournament but again they sat back after the early breakthrough.

That could have proved costly in the second half when the limited but game Slovaks, who knocked holders Italy out last week, had three good chances to equalise.

Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg saved from Miroslav Stoch and Robert Vittek before Vittek dallied with his second chance, but it is hard to imagine the likes of Luis Fabiano, Robinho or Kaka passing up such opportunities.

Still, Van Marwijk has always maintained the Dutch are here to win the whole thing for the first time, 12 victories in a row is certainly momentum, and they would not be alone in raising their game when faced with better opposition.

As his players keep saying, they are doing "just enough" to get through each stage of the tournament, and perhaps Africa's first World Cup will just have to live without a glimpse of traditional Dutch flair.

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